We awoke to a grey world this morning, the fog had rolled in and was clinging to everything it could find, coupled with the freezing temperatures it just meant that there was very little reasons to get up early today.
So we didn’t.
Letting the sun work it’s magic, we remained moored up until the air started to clear. We did concede to putting the heating on, which is the first time this week.
We didn’t need it on for long though, and as soon as the fog cleared the temperature started to creep up. We rapidly went from several layers down to as few as possible (whilst remaining decent, of course).
Now, no canal barge trip would be complete without the Captain sustaining some kind of crippling injury, and this year’s is perhaps the worst of the lot: she cut her finger whilst vacuuming the tiny, two foot strip of carpet in the saloon.
Knowing that today was going to be our least intensive on the water (we only had the Ashford Tunnel to contend with, and a couple of drawbridges), we decided to moor up near Pencelli (a small Welsh village), and go for a walk.
A long walk.
A long, almost constant vertical climb of a work.
We climbed 220m in height almost instantly (or so it felt), and spent the next 5 miles winding our way back down again. I can confirm that the hills were definitely alive, though with the sound of thousands of bleating sheep, rather than music.
In truth, the whole walk wasn’t too bad in the end, we managed to get a good view of Pen-Y-Fan and Midshipman Jerry didn’t attack any of the new white woolly friends he as we scrambled through the fields – actually, he barely registered them at all, which is good thing.
We stopped at St Meugan’s church, which gave us some shelter from the blazing sun for a few minutes. It is an old building, and pretty much the only structure for miles around.
The pinnacle of the journey though, was to be the “waterfalls” as marked up on our map. We navigated tricky terrain as we got ever closer to our destination.
It was only when we arrived at X marks the spot, that we checked the details of the map. 17 years ago when the map was produced there may well have been waterfalls here, but today there was a road and just the tiniest trickle of a stream.
Ah well, we’d come this far so there was nothing else to do but complete our increasingly hot trek and wend our way back towards the canal. We held the idea of a cool ice cream in our heads as we yomped along.
Pencelli didn’t have any ice cream, so we chugged a little further down the canal to Talybont-on-Usk, where we arrived parched and sweaty.
The one tiny shop DID have ice cream, but it was very disappointing. Still, when you’re given two small sticks of frozen milk of indiscernible flavour, you have to make the most of it. By that time we were so dried up anything would do.
It turned out that the water pipe in Talybont-on-Usk jad mo water in it, so we left, slightly despondent at the lack of supplies.
Any ill feeling was soon rectified by scones and babycham (I know, we really know how to rebel!), which we ate whilst moored up next to the one electric drawbridge on this canal.
The electric drawbridge crosses a very busy road, and there’s a clear sign on it stating “do not open this gate between 1515 and 1615”. We arrived at 1530 and so moored up, got out our aforementioned party food and waited for 1615 to roll around. Like all good citizens of the waterways should do.
Sadly, the owners of the King George canal barge has no such respect. They barged right by us, realised that the gate was shut and then promptly stepped across our deck, to the shore carrying their centre line (rope) with them. This act of brazen cheekiness upset the Captain, as you can imagine. But worse was to come!
The woman who had straddled our boat without so much as a by-your-leave then tapped on the window and told us we shouldn’t be moored up here, it’s only for those people waiting to use the bridge.
“We know!” We cried, “that’s why we moored up here, waiting for 1615.”
Mrs King George then hopped back across our bow, onto her boat and they pushed on up to the drawbridge, stopping all the school traffic by raising the bridge some 15 minutes early.
You’ll be pleased to know that we did not follow them through (although some did), we waited diligently until 1615 and then operated the drawbridge. Funnily enough there was no traffic around when we did it, so no one was inconvenienced.
We travelled a little further south on the canal, rapidly deciding that we’d had enough today. We did pass along George again, they were heading in the opposite direction now (who knows what they were up to? Probably looking for someone else’s boat to walk all over?). Mrs King George attempted to offer some kind of apology, but we were too busy trying to get away from them to really hear what she said, something about not understanding how time works, I think.
Finally, we found a very secluded mooring location and stopped for the night.